Morelia Tourist Attractions

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Morelia, the magnificent capital of the state of Michoacán, lies on the right bank of the Rio Grande de Morelia within an extensive fertile hollow between Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico's two largest cities.

Morelia retains the character of a distinguished Spanish colonial town.

Morelia Cathedral

The beautiful main square (Plaza de los Mártires or Zócalo) is lined on three sides by arcades. The east side is completely dominated by the magnificent cathedral which is built in pinkish-brown trachyte. Construction began in 1640 and continued until more than a century later. Despite this length of time the cathedral's style, predominantly strictly Baroque, has remained completely unified. The azulejo-decorated dome of the church is striking. The interior, which was partly refurbished at the end of the 19th c., contains several notable features: the Neo-Classical retablos, the silver font, a crucifix by Manuel Tolsá, the imposing organ built in Germany in 1903, and a number of paintings in the chancel and the sacristy which are attributed to the leading painters of the first half of the 18th c., Juan Rodríguez Juárez, José Maria de Ibarra and Miguel Cabrera. An Indian "de caña" figure of Christ, wearing a golden crown donated by the Spanish king Philip II, is also kept in the sacristy.

Government Palace

Opposite the cathedral, on the other side of the Avenida Madero Oriente, stands the Baroque Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) built between 1732 and 1770 with an interesting patio. The enormous murals by the native artist Alfredo Zalce are remarkable. They depict the history of independence, the reforms, and Mexico's revolution.
Address: Avenida Madero Poniente, #63, Mexico

Regional Museum

The Museo Regional de Michoacán (Regional Museum, Av. Allende 305) is housed in a mid-18th c. Baroque building on the corner of Allende Street and Abasolo Street. It contains pre-Columbian exhibits as well as paintings, weapons, implements and furniture from the colonial period. The stairwells are decorated with frescos by Alfredo Zalce and Federico Cantú.
Address: Allende 305, Mexico

Town Hall

To the left of the Regional Museum is the Palacio Municipal (town hall), a Neo-Classical building, dating from the end of the 18th c.

Colegio de San Nicolás

The Colegio de San Nicolás is reached by following Calle Galeana northwards and crossing the Avenida Madero Poniente. The original building dates from 1580 and became home to the school founded in Pátzcuara in 1540; after the Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco school (1537) it is the oldest on the American continent. It now belongs to the University of Morelia. The courtyard with fine Baroque arcades is noteworthy.
The Melchor Ocampo room is located on the upper floor.
Address: Francisco I. Madero Poniente, Mexico

Clavijero Palace

Opposite Colegio de San Nicolás stands the massive Clavijero Palace, named after Francisco Javier de Clavijero, a Jesuit teacher. Part of the complex is the Iglesia de la Compañía, a Jesuit church built between 1660 and 1681. It now houses the Biblioteca Pública (Public Library). On sale at the Mercado de Dulches ("Sweet Market") are not only sweets but also handcrafted articles.

Church of Santa Rosa de Lima

Cross Calle Santiago Tapia to an attractive little square where stands the Church of Santa Rosa de Lima. This building, begun at the end of the 16th c., has a double portal showing Renaissance influences, while the upper façade and the gilded and painted retablos are dominated by the Baroque style in its Churrigueresque form. A conservatoire, the oldest college of music in America, adjoins the church.
Address: Santiago Tapia, #334, Mexico

State Museum

Diagonally opposite Santa Rosa de Lima is the Museo del Estado (State Museum) opened in 1986. It is housed in La Casa de la Emperatriz (House of the Empress, Guillermo Prieto 176) where the wife of Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, Doña Ana Huarte, spent her youth. It displays many exhibits, including pre-Columbian pieces and Indian costumes, a valuable collection of precious stones and minerals, a pharmacy and other objects and documents connected with the history of Michoacán.
Address: Guillermo Prieto 176, Mexico

Museum of Colonial Art

The Museo del Arte Colonial (Museum of Colonial Art) is situated in Av. Benito Juárez, which crosses the Santiago Tapia a little further to the east. On display are paintings, sculptures, incunabula and other art objects from the colonial period.
Address: Benito Juárez 240, Morelia, Michoacan 58000, Mexico

House of Culture

The Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) is to be found further north on the corner of Humboldt and Fray Juan de San Miguel near the del Carmen Church (early 17th c.). In addition to archaeological objects, beautiful masks and statues of Christ from all over Mexico can also be seen here.
Address: Avenida Morelos Norte 485, Mexico

Church of St Francis

The church of St Francis, built around 1540 and thus the town's oldest sacral building, stands behind the Plaza Valladolid. Of note is the entrance façade, built in the Renaissance style with Plateresque elements. The bell-tower has a small dome covered with azulejos.

Palacio de las Artesanías

The convent, formerly adjoining the church, now houses the Palacio de las Artesanías, which displays and sells excellent pieces of regional folk art, such as lacquerware and copperware, wood carvings, ceramics and embroidery.


Two buildings in Morelia's old town are now dedicated to the memory of the hero of independence Jose María Morelos; these are the house where he was born (Casa Natal de Morelos) on the corner of Corregidora y García Obeso, which displays letters and other memorabilia, and the Museo Morelos, the real Morelos museum, housed in his later home (Av. Morelos 323). Here can be seen his weapons, uniform, priest's robes and documents. A library and an auditorium adjoin the museum.


The aqueduct to the east of the town centre is a distinctive local landmark. Built between 1785 and 1789 it measures 1600 m (5251 ft) in length and is borne on 253 arches.

Other Sights

Other sights include the churches of San Agustin, Guadalupe and Santa Catalina, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art) in the attractive Park Cuauhtémoc, and the new planetarium, the largest and most modern of its type in Mexico.

Plaza de los Mártires (Zócalo)

Plaza de los Mártires is a beautiful square bordered by arches and colonnades supporting colonial buildings. This covers three sides of the square, and the fourth side is dominated by an imposing Cathedral.

Palacio de Justicia

This building is the First Court of Justice and dates from the 17th c. The building previously housed a variety of government offices.
Address: Portal Allende, #267, Mexico



Pátzcuaro Lake

Lago de Pátzcuaro (Pátzcuaro Lake) has a length of 19km/12mi, an average width of almost 5km/3mi and lies at a height of 2050 m (6725 ft).

The lake is surrounded by forested mountains and extinct volcanoes and contains a string of islands, of which Janitzio, Jarácuaro, Tecuén, Yunuén and Pacanda are the most important. Numerous picturesque Indio villages, which have managed to retain to a great extent their old way of life, are situated along the banks and in the surrounding area. Its location and surroundings make Lago de Pátzcuaro one of Mexico's most popular tourist attractions which can sometimes lead to overcrowding. Pollution, however, has also affected the lake detrimentally during recent years.

How to get there

From Mexico City by rail along a beautiful country route in approximately 12 hours; by bus and by car on the MEX 15 about 350km/217mi via Morelia.

Patzcuaro, Mexico

The most important town in the Pátzcuaro Lake region is Pátzcuaro (Tarascan: "place of the stones for temple building"; 2175 m (7138 ft); population 90,000; market day: Friday) situated 4km/2.5mi from the lake.
This delightful little town still presents a picture of the past. While the Indian element continues to prevail in the life of this former Tarascan metropolis, its most attractive old buildings date back to 1550 when Pátzcuaro was a Spanish episcopal see. The memory of the Indians' great protector and teacher, Bishop Vasco de Quiroga ("Tata Vasco", 1470-1565), is still very much alive. The history of the town, which received its charter from the Emperor Charles V in 1553, is closely linked to that of Tzintzuntzan and Morelia.

San Jose Purua, Mexico

In the direction of Titácuaro it is 19km/12mi to the town of Tuxpan. After Tuxpan a turning on the right leads in about 8km/5mi to San José Purúa (1689 m (5543 ft), population 35,000). This picturesque spa lies within tropical vegetation on the edge of a deep ravine.

Angangueo, Mexico

San Felipe de Alzati is reached another 2km/1.3mi along the MEX 15. From here a road on the left goes via Ocampo to the small mining town of Angangueo (2268 m (7444 ft); Purépecha: "at the entrance to the cave") some 24km/15mi away. Organised tours depart from here to the Santuario de la Mariposa Monarco, one of the rare wintering areas of the monarch butterfly and the only one officially accessible to visitors.
Millions of these butterflies (Danaus Plexippus) fly here every November from Canada and North America and leave this more than 3000 m (9846 ft)-high coniferous forest the following April. The butterflies cover up to 140km/87mi a day on their long flights. This and two other wintering areas, in Michoacán and in the Estado de México, were discovered by American scientists in 1975 but not made public until ten years later. In recent years deforestation, too many tourists (1997: 200,000) and the frequent cold winters have all resulted in a considerable fall in the numbers of the butterflies. The official figure is now given as 35 million and so, in the interests of the species, visitors may like to think twice before intruding into this area.
From San Felipe de Alzati it is 9km/5.6mi more to Zitácuaro, from there a further 97km/60mi to Toluca and another 70km/43mi to Mexico City.

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